Skip to main content

Full text of "The History Of Western Education"

See other formats


The reconciliation, as a matter of fact, was slow to come, and
indeed is not yet entirely accomplished. Before it could be even
a possibility, the pride of place that the practice of centuries
had given to literature had to be challenged by such one-sided
claims as were put forward by Spencer and some of his successors.
It was quite essential that it should be pointed out that a purely
literary training, whatever its merits, was an insufficient qualifica-
tion for the members of a community becoming increasingly
dependent on scientific ideas and inventions; and that, moreover,
considered simply as a discipline, the scientific training seemed
capable of developing powers of personal observation and judg-
ment in ways without parallel in a literary training. And if science
had to justify itself in such ways before it could be made part of
the academic tradition, it was no less necessary that the older
culture should approve itself to the new spirit that expressed
itself in science. It must be remembered that when Spencer was
comparing scientific education with classical, most of the grammar
schools deserved the strictures he passed on them. " The number
of scholars who were obtaining the sort of education in Latin and
Greek contemplated by their founders," says Sir Joshua Fitch,
summarizing the findings of the Endowed Schools Commission of
1864-1868, "was very small and was constantly diminishing;
the general instruction in other subjects was found to be very
worthless, the very existence of statutes prescribing the ancient
learning often serving as a reason for the absence of all teaching
of modern subjects; and with a few honourable exceptions the
endowed schools were found to be characterized by inefficient
supervision on the part of the governing bodies, and by languor
and feebleness on the part of teachers and taught."* Plainly,
whatever might be said about the worth of a scientific education,
the literary education given in these schools was very unsatis-
factory, and not at all likely to commend itself to those who wished
to see the national education brought into relation with the
conditions of modern life.

Happily the reform of the grammar schools was already
beginning to come from within. A beginning had been made
towards the end of the Eighteenth Century by men like Vicesimus
Knox, headmaster of Tonbridge Grammar School, who wrote on
Liberal Education in exposition and defence of the classical learning
* Quoted, Foster Watson. The Old Grammar Schools, p. 139,